28th January 2009
We waited for the later ferry which arrived a couple of hours later. I've ever seen so much commotion! The passengers disembarking in a rush to be at the front of the queue for the formalities and the cargo being unloaded by hand.
Bales of cloth, second hand clothes, palm oil containers by the hundred and then comes the embarkation... Wow! Even more chaos! There were people pushing and shoving anyone, including us, out of the way, some guys swinging underneath the loading platform to avoid the officials in charge, fare dodging and the police and customs dispensing 'immediate' justice to anyone crossing their path. Whips made of old rope, belts, car belts from engines etc and the good old fashioned truncheon. Of which I saw a guy for whatever reason take a good hit from one truncheon wielding cop and he must be still hurting two days after!
Getting the bikes aboard required extra help as the platform was slippy with oil and the final few steps were really steep but all was done reasonably quickly. The bikes positioned on deck and the usual awe from the passengers.
The other side, DRC,
awaited us with a little less chaos but we'd heard of the formalities and the problems we may get from Migo who did the crossing 4 days earlier. We'd not printed off a copy of our Letter of Introduction for Angola so when asked for one I opened the laptop and showed the emailed copy. The laptop itself brought a lot of attention which diverted their thoughts from whether we had one or not. Strange I find that the DRC officials want to see an LOI for Angola before letting us into DRC..?
It was gone 4pm by the time we left the Immigration and Customs with Mark telling me to quickly start the bike and get going so I did. He later told me he was requested for a Yellow Fever vaccination card, which he produced and knowing I haven't got one he wanted us to be away before being asked for mine!
Entering into Kinshasa was pretty easy with the centre of town being very near the port but boy did we find the hotels expensive. The currency of preference here is the US Dollar and being the tourists we are looked at strangely when we want to pay in local money, of which we had wads of the dirty notes and really wanted to get rid of it soon. The hotel prices ranged from $50 for a dosshouse to $200+ for a more salubrious 5*. Of which we went for the middle and chose $110 to share a room! Expensive and not really good value, even the breakfast was $20!
Next day we set off to Matadi, the DRC's southern stop for us and 350kms of good tarmac roads. I enjoyed it for the testing as the bikes new pistons rings were only brief and I needed to get some mileage done before the bad roads of Angola would push the revs up high. I had a puncture and was fortunate enough to be close by a 'vulcaniser' (puncture repair guy) and let him do the job. 20 minutes and I was back on the road, these boys know how to change a tyre and should work for a racing team! During the puncture Mark passed me by and not seeing me he thought I was still ahead. It took me over an hour to catch him! That's when the weather drew in.....
The rainy season here in Central Africa is a strange one, starting in November, finishing in March. We are slap bang in the middle of it and have noticed the increasing rains. The last 100kms of the Matadi road it was constant and made the road very dangerous for the residue oil on the tarmac had risen in the centre of the road and the bike was sliding all over the place in stretches. I crashed just after a bridge where both front and rear lost complete traction as if on ice and the bike went down on the asphalt. No injuries or damage but the bike stopped in the oncoming lane of a downhill blind bend and I was really fearful of another motorist or truck sliding as I did and hitting the bike or myself. The other vehicles were losing steering as it was so slippy! One car barely missed the bike and I moved it across to the other safer side. Funny thing, I'd not been to the bathroom all day and it's amazing what a crash can do to get the bowl movements going! I must have looked a sight to the local walking over the bridge, seeing big white guy clutching a big blue and white umbrella nipping into the foliage, loo roll in hand trying to prevent another 'accident'! Ha Ha Ha!
The rest of the route was with myself soaked to the bone, constantly wiping my goggles and smarting from the sting of the rain on my top lip and we couldn't wait to get to the Catholic Mission which Migo had organised rooms for us to stay. I wish I never gave away my rain suit in Portugal! With the rain filling my clothing and the wind chill dropping the temperature I was feeling the cold and started shivering when we stopped in Matadi. Shivering, I don't mind for I knew I'd warm up quickly but Mark did look at me puzzled but then again he had a poncho on and wasn't as soaked.
The Mission also doubles as a primary school so the morning was full of the sounds of children doing their classes. 200 or so all reciting words after the teachers made a noise more effective than any alarm clock!
Posted by geoffshing at February 25, 2009 04:44 PM GMT
Our applications for the Angolan visa were put in straight away, $30 + 1,000FC, 2 passport pictures, copies of passports and a whole bunch of form filling and questions for names of parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, how much we paid for our original passports and explained that it's only for a 5 day transit visa. We were told to return the next day at 11am, so we'll see..? If we get it I should be in South Africa in less than 2 weeks!
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